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Consumers stock up on gas as commission row persists

   March 1, 2019        278        Rajesh Khanal

Consumers are rushing to stock up on cooking gas fearing a possible shortage with Nepal Oil Corporation and gas bottlers still locked in battle over the commission rate. Gas bottlers have threatened to stop supplying liquefied petroleum gas from March 14 if the state-owned corporation does not increase their commission. Issuing a 10-point demand on Wednesday, the Nepal LP Gas Industry Association gave Nepal Oil Corporation a 10-day ultimatum.

Gas dealers said demand had gone up around 25 percent in the last few day. Ram Kumar Khadka, proprietor of Khadka Gas Depot in Maharajgunj, said more people were coming to his depot lately. “We usually sell around 280 cylinders daily. Now, we are selling 350 cylinders daily, but we still have a hard time fulfilling demand,” said Khadka.

Sellers said increasing tensions between India and Pakistan had also made consumers nervous, prompting them to buy more than their usual requirement. “Fearing a possible reduction in supply from the southern neighbour, consumers are started to keep more stock in recent days,” said Khadka. India is Nepal’s sole supplier of fuel.

With demand going up sharply, gas sellers are putting customers on a waiting list. “I have to wait in a queue for two to three days to buy a cylinder of cooking gas,” said Sarita Dhakal, a housewife from Bishalnagar.

Gas bottlers said demand could have gone up due to panic buying. “We are importing gas as usual, and there is no likelihood of a shortage,” said Gokul Bhandari, president of the Nepal LP Gas Industry Association. According to him, gas bottlers sold 2.5 million cylinders in January.

Gas bottlers and Nepal Oil Corporation had a series of meetings in the last few days, but they have not been able to come to an agreement over the commission rate. Bhandari said they were compelled to launch a protest due to government apathy. “We have been doing business based on the same old commission rate of Rs32 per cylinder for the last six years,” said Bhandari. “Over the period, our operation cost has increased sharply making it extremely hard to run our businesses.”

The Essential Goods Protection Act has prohibited any sort of protest that disrupts supply of an essential product. However, commodity associations such as the Nepal LP Gas Industry Association have resorted to disrupting supply time and again to get their demands addressed.

Nepal Oil Corporation acknowledged that there was demand pressure in the last few days. Spokesperson Birendra Kumar Goit said they had mobilised market monitoring teams to find out the actual situation. According to him, the state-owned oil monopoly was positive about the demand of gas bottlers. “But the corporation is yet to reach a conclusion on fixing the commission rate,” Goit said.

The Kathmandu Post